NBA fever engulfs Seattle as fans line up overnight for LeBron James’ CrawsOver appearance

Hey Adam Silver, see that?

Seattle is open for business.

Just ask the hundreds of campers who spent the night outside Seattle Pacific University’s Royal Brougham Pavilion on a balmy Friday night.

The line began in front of the pavilion’s main gates, snaked along Third Avenue West past a construction site behind the building, and extended along West Ewing Street.

They arrived at 4 p.m. Friday after Pied Piper Jamal Crawford — aka Seattle’s basketball godfather — announced via Twitter that LeBron James was returning to Seattle for the first time in 15 years.

It was an appearance that was cut short as James’ play was stopped before half-time due to wet floors causing dangerous playing conditions.

They’re a bit rowdy, restless and ready to rekindle the city’s 41-year relationship with the NBA that ended prematurely in 2008 when Silver’s predecessor as commissioner, David Stern, endorsed the Sonics’ move – a lot in this crowd would say robbery – in Oklahoma City.

“I was 11 when they left,” said Derek Hong, 25, who lives in Lynnwood. “I remember going to their games with $10 tickets. My father would take me. I loved going to those games. I remember watching rookie KD [Kevin Durant]. I miss those days, and it would be really fun to relive that.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 14 years.

With no NBA team to cheer on through the winter and spring, Seattle sports fans fill their baskets with Storm’s WNBA games and a handful of free CrawsOver Pro-Am League games, with local players dotted throughout the summer. calendar.

And every once in a while, a high-profile basketball star comes along — think Durant and Kyrie Irving in 2013 or Trae Young three weeks ago — who sends the basketball community into a frenzy.

But Friday night surpassed all that. It was next-level new-age mania mixed with an old-school love fest that erupted into an epic, unprecedented carnival of hoops.

It had the organic feel of the early stages of CHOP’s three-week occupation forming a few blocks from Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood in 2020 without the serious undertones of the nation’s racial awakening and before it became violent.

The crowd also matched the size seen this summer at music festivals and neighborhood gatherings, such as Capitol Hill Block Party and Fremont’s Solstice Parade.

But basketball?

“We’re camping out basically shows the NBA that we’re passionate about our basketball,” said 26-year-old Murtada Al-Harab, who lives in Mukilteo. “Actually, we care. We would like a returning team. The fact that we are here for 24 hours shows that we are passionate fans and deserve a team.

Hey billionaire investors interested in buying an NBA team, see that?

While you slept, a hoop festival raged all night in Seattle.

They brought drinks, blankets and radio cassettes. They were sitting on lawn chairs and La-Z-Boys sprawled on the sidewalk amid camping tents and air mattresses.

Connor Fredericksen, 27, who lives on Capitol Hill, was one of the first there with his buddies.

“Instead of paying $10,000 to sit somewhere, I can sit here,” he said. “If I have to wait 24 hours so I don’t have to pay a penny, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

What better way to spend a Friday night than sleeping on the streets with hundreds of crazy hoops fans?

“It’s a date night,” said Camila, 27, who was seated near the front of the line with her boyfriend Zack. “It was definitely his idea, but I’m here to support him because I know it means a lot. And a free LeBron game is exciting. I love LeBron.”

Fans dressed in James’ Cleveland Cavaliers No. 23 jersey and Los Angeles Lakers No. 6 jersey came with their kids and dogs. They played board games and a corn hole and streamed movies on their phones and laptops to pass the time.

External chargers were in short supply, and pizza delivery people made occasional stops, as did SPU security and Seattle police.

Around midnight, someone set up a basketball hoop under a lamppost and games of 3 on 3 and 1 on 1 kept the crowd entertained for hours.

Hey Crawford, see that?

They came from Portland, Port Angeles, Yakima and Spokane.

Some have been drawn to local hoop stars Isaiah Thomas, Dejounte Murray, Paolo Banchero, MarJon Beauchamp and Tari Eason.

Others wanted to see Jayson Tatum, the 24-year-old Boston Celtics star up close, who had never played in Seattle until Saturday.

“I drove here from eastern Washington with my family on my three-day weekend because of rumors that LeBron was here,” Jay Davis, 33, said. “This morning as I was driving I saw that Isaiah Thomas was confirmed. Just as I was crossing I-90 to I-5 I was checking my phone and saw that Bron was confirmed that I was a little crazy because I knew it would be the spinoff.

“I knew it would happen. So I dropped my 4-year-old son off with a family and then camped overnight with his mom. Anyway, I’m glad LeBron is there, but wherever he goes, he draws a great crowd.

No kidding.

By 7 a.m. the line had stretched half a mile to Nickerson Marina and an estimate by an SPU official put the crowd at around 1,000. Those in the back feared they wouldn’t enter the 60-year-old, 2,650-seat gymnasium.

The first of four games was at 1 p.m. and James is scheduled to headline the final at 5:30 p.m.

Hey NBA deniers, see that?

Forget the rhetoric. Nothing like an impromptu neighborhood basketball party.

What happened in the dark on this strip of sidewalk on the north side of Queen Anne Hill is as important as any Save Our Sonics rally or the behind-the-scenes exchanges between city leaders and power brokers of the NBA.

It was organic, spontaneous and visceral. He came out of nowhere. And it had been building for years.

Crawford did it with great help from his basketball buddies, especially James.

“It’s amazing to absolutely see the city show up,” Crawford said. “It shows how we feel about the game. Sport is respected here. You have to tip your hat to LeBron. He hasn’t been here for 15 years. LeBron knew what it meant to come here not just to race, but to these kids. It’s inspiring.

Of course, there are countless other people who have made important contributions over the years.

Tim Leiweke deserves kudos for helping build the $1.15 billion Climate Pledge Arena, which has seemingly made Seattle, along with Las Vegas, one of the likeliest destinations if the NBA were to grow from 30 to 32. teams.

But this grassroots movement started decades ago with OG fans like Kris Brannon aka “The Sonics Guy” and Lorin “Big Lo” Sandretzky. Brannon would have loved that.

Basketball fever is skyrocketing in Seattle.